[ prop-er ]
/ ˈprɒp ər /
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See synonyms for: proper / propers on Thesaurus.com

Informal. thoroughly; completely.
Ecclesiastical. a special office or special parts of an office appointed for a particular day or time.
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Origin of proper

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English propre, from Old French, from Latin proprius “one's own”


prop·er·ly, adverbprop·er·ness, nounun·prop·er, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What is a basic definition of proper?

Proper is an adjective that describes something that is appropriate, adheres to polite behavior, or is correct. Proper is also used in grammar to refer to nouns that identify specific people, places, or things. The word proper has additional senses as an adjective, adverb, and noun.

Something is said to be proper if it is suitable or appropriate. For example, spring and summer are the proper seasons for growing plants because the weather is often warm and sunny, with frequent rain.

  • Real-life examples: A parking lot is a proper place to leave your car. The South Pole is not the proper place to wear shorts. April Fool’s Day is a proper time to play jokes on people.
  • Used in a sentence: She didn’t think the base of an active volcano was a proper spot for her summer home.

Proper also describes something that conforms to good manners or to behavior that is considered acceptable by a society. The words rude and impolite are opposites of this sense of proper.

  • Real-life examples: It is not considered proper to laugh during a funeral. A bathing suit is not the proper outfit to wear to a banquet. It is not proper (or smart) to insult royalty.
  • Used in a sentence: Fast food was not the proper meal to serve at the fancy dinner party.

Proper can also mean that something is correct or accurate.

  • Real-life examples: Eating with your mouth is not the proper way to eat something (and often leads to food falling out of your mouth). Your English teacher will insist that you use proper spelling and punctuation in your writing. In the United States, the right lane of the road is the proper one to drive on.
  • Used in a sentence: I can never remember the proper spelling of the word “definitely.”

In English grammar, the word proper is used to refer to nouns and other words that identify particular people, places, or things. Proper words are almost always capitalized in English. Nouns that are not proper nouns are called common nouns and refer to any of a class of entities rather than a specific one, such as cat, tree, or ocean.

  • Real-life examples: Albert Einstein is the proper noun referring to a famous German physicist. New York City is the proper noun referring to a city in the United States. Portuguese is the proper adjective that describes someone or something from the country of Portugal.
  • Used in a sentence: Some proper nouns, like “iPad,” don’t follow typical capitalization rules.

Where does proper come from?

The first records of proper come from around 1250. It ultimately comes from the Latin word proprius, meaning “special.”

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What are some other forms related to proper?

What are some synonyms for proper?

What are some words that share a root or word element with proper?

What are some words that often get used in discussing proper?

How is proper used in real life?

Proper is a common word that most often refers to something being appropriate or correct.

Try using proper!

True or False?

A grassy park is a proper place to have a relaxing picnic.

How to use proper in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for proper

/ (ˈprɒpə) /

British dialect (intensifier)he's proper stupid
good and proper informal thoroughlyto get drunk good and proper
the parts of the Mass that vary according to the particular day or feast on which the Mass is celebratedCompare ordinary (def. 10)

Derived forms of proper

properly, adverbproperness, noun

Word Origin for proper

C13: via Old French from Latin prōprius special
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012